The card bearing photos of a Muslim cleric, the Pope and Donald Trump arrived in my mail announcing a conference entitled “Unlocking Bible Prophecy” in four weekend sessions.
And though most of my involvement with faith groups these days concerns those which take Scripture “seriously but not literally,” I’m aware that many view the Bible as true in all respects.
Among these are Seventh-day Adventists, an American-born Christian denomination dating from the mid-19th Century and represented by congregations in the Roanoke area. One of several groups which teach that the return of Jesus is near at hand, they observe Saturday as the day for worship.
The card led me to the North Ridge Seventh-day Adventist Church off Peters Creek Road Northwest and not far from Northside High and Middle Schools as well as six other churches. Its building is relatively new, spacious and easily accessed with ample parking.
There was plenty of space in the worship area with about 50 attending the second session of the conference entitled “Finding Hope in These Troubling Times.” After a short opening prayer, the pastor, Dale Long, whose informal attire included a red sport shirt, began his discourse using a large wall screen.
As the card had indicated, the teaching material which guided Long came from Relevant Bible Seminars of Vancouver, WA. Bible passages and graphics appeared on the screen as he made his points. On the opening night, he said, the Old Testament book of Daniel had been the focus and tonight the final book, Revelation, would be explored.
“People say Revelation scares them to death,” the pastor began. He pointed out that the fear comes from several chapters in which symbolic beasts are described and frightening signs purported to occur as Jesus returns. Adventist theology is heavy on the need to accept the lordship of God’s Son Jesus or a person, born into sin, will follow Satan to perdition upon death.
However, the pastor asserted that too much has been made of the apocalyptic (hidden) terrifying symbols which have given Revelation its scary reputation. Instead, he undertook for the remaining 45 minutes to detail how readers of the final book of the Bible can rest in the mercy of Jesus and His death on the cross as atonement for human sin which came into the world with Adam, a real man, as these folks believe.
“Just as a workman needs the right tools for a certain job, a reader of Revelation needs to follow certain keys,” Long explained. If he does so, a pattern of “chain of custody” will appear so that stories in the Old Testament such as that of the first man and the first woman, Adam and Eve in the beautiful garden, will point directly to Christ.
The pastor defined these keys as all Scripture is inspired, there are connections of the two testaments such as scary beasts found in the prophetic book of Daniel, symbols also unite events of the Old and New Testaments and, most important, the coming of Jesus is foretold. According to the Adventist pastor, the main message of Revelation is that “Jesus wants to connect people to God. Despite human beings putting their wants before God’s plan for them, Jesus’ mercy gives hope to all.
Seen this way, people who confess their weakness – “original sin”-can know that God’s plan will bring them ultimate joy in our troubled times, long concluded as he issued an altar call. For those who came each night, a drawing would bring someone the tangible prize of a $50 gift card.